For millions of baby boomers, part of their tween years died yesterday with Davy Jones.
Davy and The Monkees helped set the stage for many acts that would follow over the next four decades. As a manufactured rock band – hatched not in a garage or basement, but in a television studio seeking to capitalize on “A Hard Days Night” – The Monkees were pioneers, clearing the way for “Glee,” “Smash,” and other television shows where the music rather than the plot is the real star. Davy and his mates were thrown together by television, rather than hanging out in real life, but somehow they coalesced as a band. Their best songs came from other people – Carol King, Neil Diamond, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart – but the Monkees made the songs catchy and shiny.
Unlike many other pop stars of the late 60s era, Davy occupied a unique place in our ‘tween girl psyches. Elvis and Frankie Avalon were too old; Sir Paul was cute but already an icon rather than a flesh-and-blood guy; Mick was just too dangerous. Davy could sing and he was famous, but somehow he seemed accessible and nice — like the older brother of the cutest boy in class, before he got shipped off to Vietnam. He was The Beebs of the 1960s. His cuteness quotient was off the charts.
The girls in my seventh-grade Catholic school class adored Davy. We listened breathlessly for his voice in the Monkees’ songs – the “ba ba ba ba…ba ba ba ba” chorus of “Pleasant Valley Sunday;” his sweet English tenor on “Daydream Believer,” “Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow,” and “When Love Comes Knocking at Your Door.” Mary Joan Fricker, whose desk was across the aisle in Sister Mary Boniface’s class, had the lyrics from Davy’s songs scrawled on the brown paper cover of her Baltimore Catechism. We shared Davy stories from the latest “Monkees” episodes and swooned over him.
Davy was our crush during that fleeting period when we had one foot in childhood and one in brooding adolescence. We still colored within the lines, memorized the Beatitudes and worked on our penmanship, but we’d hike up the hem of our school uniforms when the nuns were not looking. A few of us wore fishnets and lace-up granny shoes with our uniforms; sometimes we got away with it. We listened to the Temptations, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and of course, The Monkees.
“More of the Monkees” was the first record album that I ever bought. It cost $3.59 at the Bazaar of All Nations in my hometown, a down-at-the-heels department store that is no longer there. Davy’s smiling face greeted me from the display rack set on the ragged linoleum at the record store doorway. I rushed home to put it on the turntable and let Mickey and Davy sing to me. Two doors down, the O’Toole family would host record hops in their basement for us neighborhood kids and Monkees songs would be in the same mix as The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and The McCoys. My sister Julie and I listened the 45 of “Daydream Believer” thousands of times.
A few years later we were too cool for The Monkees — who were on their way out anyway — and we began listening to Led Zeppelin and Iron Butterfly. We switched from AM radio to the FM “underground” station. The Monkees were packed away with the repressed memories of our awkward preteen years. But new generations would discover them years later, and appreciate their tuneful ballads from a simpler time. And we jaded music lovers would rediscover them as well. RIP, Davy.